Navy's legendary carrier USS Enterprise on final voyage
The USS Enterprise leaves Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on its final deployment Sunday.
March 12th, 2012
11:09 AM ET

Navy's legendary carrier USS Enterprise on final voyage

The legendary aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, America's oldest active-duty warship, was steaming in the Atlantic on Monday on the last deployment of its 50-year career.

The carrier and its crew of 3,100 left Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia on Sunday in the ship's 22nd deployment. The ship's air wing and other naval staff aboard add another 1,500 personnel.

It will be deployed in the Navy's Sixth Fleet and Fifth Fleet areas of operations, which cover Europe, Africa and the Middle East, including current hot spots Iran and Syria.

"Enterprise is as ready and capable as she has ever been throughout her 50 years," the ship's commanding officer, Capt. William C. Hamilton, said in a statement. "The ship and crew's performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant."

Nicknamed the "Big E," the Enterprise, CVN-65, is the eighth U.S. Navy vessel and second aircraft carrier to carry that name.

The first carrier Enterprise was built in 1937 and was one of only three carriers built before World War II to survive the conflict. That Enterprise was decommissioned in 1947 as the most decorated warship in U.S. naval history.

The current Enterprise, at 1,123 feet the longest ship in the U.S. Navy, saw its first action 11 months after its commissioning, when it was to dispatched to enforce a blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. It participated in strikes on North Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s. In 2001, Enterprise was one of the first ships to respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks, as its warplanes dropped 800,000 pounds of bombs on Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, the Navy said.

The ship was the star of the U.S. Navy for many of its 50 years, and that included a role in "Top Gun," the 1986 Tom Cruise movie about naval aviators.

"The crew is very mindful that we are following the legacy of the more than 200,000 sailors who have come before us during the last 50 years," Hamilton said in a statement. "It's the sailors of this great warship, and the sailors that have served aboard Big E over the past half-century that have established the legacy she enjoys."

The 95,000-ton ship is to be deactivated in Norfolk on December 1 and decommissioned once all reusable items are removed, Ensign Brynn Olson, the ship's deputy public affairs officer, said Monday.

The ship will then be towed to Washington state for scrapping, Olson said.

What the Enterprise will not become is a museum, she said, because removing its eight nuclear reactors will involve so much destruction that the ship could not be repaired to museum quality.

"It would just be too expensive to put her back together," Olson said.

Whether there will be a ninth USS Enterprise remains to be seen.

There are several active online petitions to get hull number CVN-80, the third in the Navy's new Gerald Ford class of carriers, named the Enterprise. That ship is planned to be commissioned in 2021.

"There is no U.S. Navy without a USS Enterprise," one petitioner wrote on epetitions.net.

Said another, "Every Navy needs a flagship, and the U.S.S. Enterprise should be ours! There must and will always be a ship named Enterprise."

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Navy
soundoff (249 Responses)
  1. Byrd

    You know you're truly living in a world of sh!t, Scottie, when people around you cry over retired weapons of mass destruction.

    Amerika. Go figure....

    March 12, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Spoken like one who has never served...typical.

      March 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karaya

      This ship and her crew were allowing you to be safe and stupid at the same time. Be grateful at least.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big George in Big D

      You'rea great bit ahsosle, do you realize that?

      March 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duke5343

      Spoken like a Bird brain- can spell thank a teacher, can express freedom thank a GI dog face, but as you vote in more Obama like liberals you will LOSE those freedoms

      March 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      It is spelled "America".
      Thank you.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Byrd

      I was a Marine. Eleven years and never remember seeing you out there...

      March 12, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dixon

      @byrd, I doubt you are a Marine... if you had been you would know the tears are for those who served. The ship is only the connection to those heros.

      March 13, 2012 at 4:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Suz

    The first US nuclear powered surface ship WAS a freighter, the NS Savannah. "Launched on 21 July 1959, she was in service between 1962–1972."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NS_Savannah

    March 12, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • bear0402

      You need to learn to read the entire article, rather than just skim through it. Article specifically states that the Enterprise was the first Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      "...world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier...."
      The article above.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • xrk9854

      The quote from the article says: "The ship and crew's performance during work-ups demonstrates that the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has never been more relevant."

      Can you not read? The Savannah was neither an aircraft carrier or warship.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Martoon

    You've "boldly gone" Big E. Well done!

    March 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ready Aye Ready

    As a 16 year veteran of the Royal Canadian Navy, I had the prvilege of witnessing the awesome power of this warship up close and personally. She is a proud and fearsome warrior and the world is a better place because of her. Rest peacefully Big E, and bravo zulu on a job well done.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big George in Big D

      I watched this beautiful carrier take my friend's husband under the Golden Gate Bridge on her way to the waters of Viet Nam. I can tell you that was one beautiful, if not the saddest, sight! Well done, Big E.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rich

    Would it be worth experimenting with this ship to see if it could somehow be adapted to generate electricity to feed the grid? Maybe not for long term use but just to test the theory of lots of small reactors instead of the giants we build on fault lines to day.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  6. James70094

    "world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier". They said it was the first nuclear aircraft carrier, not the first ship.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. mb2010a

    At least they are not going to take her out and sink her...that would have been sad. This way she will go on serving...

    March 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dom

    Someone cue up the end credits to Star Trek VI to make this more dramatic.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. stujordan

    The name "Enterprise" reaks of fascism. What an awful name for a vessal.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Apparently you have no idea what Fascism means...

      March 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • xrk9854

      You obviously know NOTHING of naval history. "Enterprise" is a proud name carried by many historic vessels.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anthem

      English comprehension: You're doing it wrong.
      en·ter·prise   /ˈɛntərˌpraɪz/ Show Spelled[en-ter-prahyz] Show IPA
      noun
      1. a project undertaken or to be undertaken, especially one that is important or difficult or that requires boldness or energy: To keep the peace is a difficult enterprise.
      2. a plan for such a project.
      3. participation or engagement in such projects: Our country was formed by the enterprise of resolute men and women.
      4. boldness or readiness in undertaking; adventurous spirit; ingenuity.
      5. a company organized for commercial purposes; business firm.

      Really curious where you get anything close to fascism out of that. Silliness.

      July 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Andrew

    Pick any 3 non-US aircraft carriers, put them in a head to head fight with the Enterprise and Enterprise will still win.

    March 12, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. colinpp

    vito_1502. When they built Enterprise, they did not have a reactor big enough to power her, so they used eight submarine (USS Nautilis-sized) reactors, making her engineering spaces a nightmare. To remove her reactors, they would have to cut truly massive amounts of steel out of her flight deck, hangar deck, and all other intervening decks to get to the reactors, then remove the reactors, then re-weld her together. What I would like to see done would be to remove her island (which is unique in design) and donate that to a naval museum. Inexpensive (by comparison) and still preserves the moat unique part of the ship.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Wow, really good idea! Saving the island (flight tower), and donating that to an appropriate Naval museum.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • MOSUX

      Good idea!

      July 13, 2012 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  12. benzuda

    There was another Enterprise, a Space Shuttle, remember those? The REAL question is what spacecraft will we next name the Enterprise.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      A Chinese carrier, of course!

      March 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      The Russians have another rusting, cast-off, hand-me-down, never completed hull?

      March 13, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  13. Phantom2

    I made my first deployment to "Nam" on the Big E. I flew 62 combat missions off of her. One of my uncles served aboard CV6 the other Big during WWII. The name Enterprise has a very warm place deep in the hearts of our family. Sure hate to she the grand old lady cut up for scrap like her predecessor.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracking Time

      That is quite a family history you have sir. Thank you for your service.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joe in Kalispell, MT

    First the Shuttle Enterprise was retired as a test unit and now the USN Enterprise is retiring. Very sad.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Reason & Logic

    I'm surprised that it cannot serve as a museum. The Nautilus submarine is a museum in Groton, CT and had its reactor removed but perhaps the Enterprise's reactors are more complex to remove.

    March 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      The Nautilus had a single reactor. The Enterprise carries 8. There's more to removing a large hulled vessel and it's reactors than splitting open a cylinder and removing a single reactor.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedaly

      @Nick – it has 8 reactors? Do you know why it has so many? I would think it would not take that many to power a ship but I don't know what a "mini" reactor can generate. That's really interesting.

      March 12, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
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